Andy Kerr is running to raise money so others can access ketogenic epilepsy treatment. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

TOM TAYLOR
tom.taylor@age.co.nz

A Masterton man is running his first half-marathon in November to raise money for epilepsy treatment.

But Andy Kerr’s campaign would not end at the finish line. He aimed to use innovative investment methods to keep the funds flowing long after he completed the race.

Kerr first heard about ketogenic therapies for epileptic children in March this year while driving from Wellington to Wairarapa.

A radio report discussed how the keto diet – made famous as a way to lose weight – could also help treat epilepsy in children.

Epilepsy New Zealand described keto as a “high fat, adequate-protein, low carbohydrate diet” that could “reduce seizures dramatically, and for some, stop them completely.”

Although some adults could self-manage the diet, the therapy required constant monitoring by dietitians for children who were still growing. However, it was not funded by Wairarapa DHB or many of New Zealand’s other district health boards.

Kerr had no personal connection to epilepsy but said the radio report resonated with him.

“I understand that in a country of 5.1 million people, it’s pretty difficult to fund everything from a health point of view … I thought, maybe this is something I can do something about.”

In March, Kerr had completed a 10km race at Martinborough’s Round the Vines. He said a half-marathon was the logical next step.

The Wairarapa Country Marathon and Half-Marathon would take place on November 7, coinciding with Kerr’s birthday.

He aimed to raise $33,000 but would not stop the fundraising there.

“Rather than just raise money and plonk it into a charity’s bank account, I’ll actually set up my own charity and run the investment through a DeFi [decentralised finance] protocol that is going to earn somewhere between 18 and 20 per cent per annum.”

If Kerr successfully reached his target, the fund would enable him to draw down $500 every month, which would go towards ketogenic diet therapy for children.

By the time of publication, he had raised $7783 through a Givealittle page.

“I’m conscious of the fact that I probably won’t get the $33,000 by the time I start the run,” Kerr said.

However, he would keep the Givealittle page active for three months after the half-marathon to allow the funds to build up.

He was also looking for support from online pioneers such as the creators of non-fungible tokens [NFTs].

NFT developers created unique digital tokens such as art or music, which could then be traded or sold.

One European developer had already pledged to support Kerr’s charity and would auction off a newly minted NFT to raise funds.

“It’s a good time to be in that space because people are willing to do it,” Kerr said.

“They also need the publicity about their projects, so it’s a two-way opportunity.”

He hoped the innovative fundraising would combine with traditional methods to produce a good result.

“Covid has taught us that we need to spend more time online to be able to get things done nowadays, rather than meeting people face-to-face – there are fewer of those things going on.

“But then there’s also the really simple things that can be done.”

The Wairarapa Country Marathon would still go ahead on November 7 if the region was at alert level 2, although there would be no prizegiving, and start times would be staggered.

Spectators could keep an eye out for Kerr, who would be easily identifiable because he will be racing in his signature fluorescent yellow shoes.

  • To donate, visit givealittle.co.nz/cause/helping-with-ketogenic-therapies-for-epileptic


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